I wrote this for my friend Jeff’s zine a little while back. Order one here.
At 25, I’m not old. Hell, I’m nowhere close. Still, every year, more of my friends (and I, admittedly) talk about growing older and out of touch. These assertions are mostly light hearted, but I couldn’t help thinking about this in terms of our subcultural affiliations. I (and you, I’m assuming) identify largely with the punk/hardcore/DIY community in some way, and when it comes down to it, most music based subcultures are youth based. Younger people attach themselves to music with a passionate ferocity unlike most other interests. I was certainly no exception. When I first discovered punk nearly ten years ago it consumed me. My friends and I formed bands, had a (short-lived) newsletter, booked shows, dyed our hair, and listened to every punk related record we could get our hands on.
The older I get, the more friends, peers, and acquaintances I see “grow out of” punk, citing a need for a real life, financial stability, careers, families, and the like. This all seems at best a little silly to me, as, by my estimation, we should all be “growing into” punk instead. Sure, when we’re younger it’s easier to let something consume you completely. Jobs are less important, rent/mortgages are nonexistent, and boundless passionate energy is easier to come by. Ideals are in no short supply, and our often naive and uninformed visions of a grand radical community seem feasible until we “grow up” and abandon it. But should we?
Why give up? What do we find so hard about melding mainstream adult life trajectories with our own punk rock communities? Music means just as much (if not more) to me now as it did when I was younger. Instead of attacking things with a youthful exuberance and reckless abandon, we should adapt those experiences to a more rational approach to life. We should still travel, we should still tour, we should still play in bands, we should still create, and we can still have successful careers.
This idea that punk rock ideals and ambition/success should be mutually exclusive should be made a thing of the past. To my mind, ambition and success on one’s own terms is the most punk rock act of all. When members of our communities move on to “real lives”, rather than chastising them for “selling out” (are we still using that? Really?), we should encourage them to balance and meld their two worlds, rather than leaving DIY behind.
It goes without saying that people change. As we grow older our ideas change, our musical tastes change, our world view changes, and hopefully we use our new wisdom and experiences to grow as rational, thinking, compassionate human beings. What’s to stop us from adapting our values, convictions, and interests learned in the DIY community to our new adult lives? We never stop learning, so what better to apply to earlier idealistic visions than new observations and experiences? Instead of growing out of our idealistic visions of a better world, we should be using our newfound wisdom to adapt those principles to the world that we have come to know. The strength of our convictions can only be strengthened by increased knowledge. Live with your full self. Adapt, change, age, and grow, but never give up.